Pacific Regionalism: Historical Anachronism, or Pathway to Future Development?
This study looks at the relevance of regional organisations in the Pacific Island region. It analyses the history of the key regional organisations: the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). Since their establishment, there has been extensive criticism of the work of these organisations. This study tests and analyses the issue of legitimacy within supra-national organisations, and questions whether regionalism in the Pacific is an anachronism of the past. In the Pacific, regionalism puts out a compelling argument for its existence. Throughout the region, small island developing states are spread across the world’s largest ocean. Pacific Island states face many challenges, including: small economies, geographical disadvantages, vulnerability to climate change, varying availability to resources and a diverse range of cultures and languages. Regionalism provides a chance for these island states to influence world policy, build capacity in the region, promote good governance, maintain peaceful neighbourly relations, and create positive development outcomes. The methodology uses qualitative research of document analysis and semi-structured interviews with key informants. The research claims a social constructivist epistemology and uses an inductive conceptual framework in order to find solutions to the complex challenges of Pacific regionalism. It was found that regional organisations need to increase their transparency in order to enhance their legitimacy. They need provide a clearer evidence base, where all Pacific people can recognise and understand the benefit of regional organisations. The organisations need to work strategically to be nimble and reactive to upcoming critical junctures and issues. Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) agencies need to coordinate better amongst themselves, open up communication with all stakeholders and create clearer mandates. In order to promote positive development, all stakeholders and Pacific people need to take ownership of these organisations, and support the Framework for Pacific Regionalism process. This study argues that there is great potential for regionalism in the Pacific, but this will only be possible if the region works collectively to enhance the legitimacy of these organisations.